CAP’N JAZZ + CAIRO GANG @ THE ECHO
Photos by Joey Tobin Words by Zach Bilson
This year’s FYF Fest lineup boasted a lot of oohs and aahs and I-remember-when-it-was-Fuck-Yeah-Fest’s, but the name that raised the most eyebrows lay halfway down the poster: Cap’n Jazz, a ramshackle Chicago group whose handful of teenage recordings paved the way for a little thing called emo in the early 90’s. Their 2010 run – their first since being able to legally drink – was a thrilling chance for a generation that rediscovered them to finally hear those songs played live, and many of the same faces from their first LA show 7 years ago packed The Echo last night for their FYF warm-up.
Singer Tim Kinsella, now 42, has spent the past couple of decades working through CJ’s more outré tendencies with solo project Joan of Arc, and his performance waved that flag proudly – outside of the standard crowd-surfing and mic-pointing, there was bent-backwards French horn (“Basil’s Kite” and “Tokyo”), impassioned, delay-ridden mantras (“Olerud”), and acerbic stage banter that featured a repeated bit of giving out his phone number. “I expect texts from all of you, all the time about being on the guest list,” he deadpanned.
While original guitarist Davey Von Bohlen wasn’t on board this time around, Tim’s brother Mike Kinsella (of American Football and Owen fame) drummed along faithfully to parts he had written while just learning the instrument, including a pitch-imperfect rendition of their cathartic “Take On Me” cover. Part of the genius of this reunion lies in the inherent slop of their sound – tempos were stretched, verses improvised, songs started and stopped again, and yet the energy never strayed far from a college basement show. And their emoer-than-emo one-liners (“I’m dying to tell you I’m dying! I don’t need a reason!”) still bring chills when a crowded room is screaming them in unison.
“I’ve got the best life and I’m happy all the time,” Tim remarked to cheers and applause, “so it’s really weird that we still get to do this.” For a band that many (including themselves) thought to be exempt from the massive wave of rock reunions, they’re making a strong bid for the most essential one to see.
L.A. group The Cairo Gang opened the show, led by singer/songwriter Emmett Kelly’s operatic tenor. A veteran sideman for the likes of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Ty Segall and Angel Olsen, Kelly and his band wound through a set of slick, twangy rock n’ roll, including songs off 2017’s Untouchable.